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Dear Wine Industry no. 3


Dear Wine Industry #3

Text:

Dear Wine Industry,

It shouldn’t be this hard to get people excited to buy wine. You’re not marketing a blanket with arms, here. IT’S WINE! One of the most celebrated “products” the world has ever seen. C’mon – wine is fun and delicous and exciting and sexy. Loosen up. Have some fun. See what happens.

hearts,

-Leah

millennier.com

Dear (U.S.) Wine Industry no. 2

MIND THE GAP: "Phase 2" Proves Elusive For Wine Industry & Millennials

About a BILLION years ago (well, more like 6 months), Gary Moore, author of Vinotrip: A Maryland Wine Blog, put into type-written the words what EVERYONE looking to reach out to Millennials should hear. Everyone in the wine industry, anyway.

In a short and sweet post about the increasingly big deal being made about wine companies reaching the millennial consumer, he finished with the following invaluable question:

“You sell alcohol. How hard can it be to sell alcohol to college graduates in their mid-twenties?”

LISTEN TO THE MAN. He certainly has a point.

His words have been echoing through my busy little head ever since he wrote them. At first, I lol’d. A lot. Then I started thinking more and more about this. Why on EARTH does the wine industry need me to say all this stuff? It really should be simple. I shouldn’t have to constantly reverse engineer the needs, wants, desires, dislikes, etc. of myself, my friends, and others in my generation in order to re-format these things into easily digestible somewhat sporadic how-tos for the world to read (though I do enjoy it quite a bit).  So, really. Why?

Look familiar?

In the time I’ve had to clarify my thoughts on the matter, I’ve come up with an answer to Gary’s question: it’s HARD. And here’s why: Survival. (Tough love is incoming, people. Fair warning.) To clarify, it’s difficult because of the the attitude and image that the wine industry in the United States has carefully cultivated in order to emerge, survive, and thrive over the last 40 years. The inability for the wine industry to change the marketing tactics that it has been using for the last almost-half -century accounts for the failure to appeal to millennial consumers.

In the mid 1970′s, when US wine became an international contender on the wine scene, both wine producers and wine drinkers embraced their (well-deserved) status with evangelical enthusiasm. And as evangelicals do, they sought to prove that Americans could be just as knowledgeable, critical, and refined in taste as their European counterparts. And though I was not around for this incredible time, I believe this image and attitude is exactly what the US wine industry needed to survive.

This is the foundation upon which current wine culture in America is based. Throughout the decades, the industry has not lost the evangelical zeal to display its knowledge and refinement. Marketing campaigns embrace it, wine publications tout it, and wine drinkers from this era flaunt it.

It was effective to market wine in this way to generations 40 years ago – even 20 years ago – but it’s NOT WORKING NOW. For the next generation of wine drinkers, this attitude tends to turn us off. Some people are annoyed by it, some people are intimidated, some people don’t identify with it, the list goes on.

RANDOM STORY THAT THIS REMINDS ME OF: The story of my friend’s grandmother. This woman lived through the great depression as a child with a large family and went through unthinkable hardships: poverty, starvation, the death of young siblings. Though she didn’t speak of this much with my friend, this time weighed heavily on her throughout her long life. When she passed away, my friend and her father went to clean out her home to sell it. When they went into the basement, they found over 20 boxes of canned goods – some recent to some almost 50 years old. Because of her formative years in need, this woman had been buying and hoarding thousands of cans her entire life because she felt that she would someday need them; in reality, however, she had been spending her family’s hard earned money on a misappropriated sense of safety.

I find this very similar to what is happening with the wine industry today. Today’s attitude was created in a time of need – it helped the wine industry emerge, survive, and thrive for years. However, that’s not what it takes to survive today and certainly not tomorrow. Attempting to create new “brand ambassadors” using the same old tactics is proving to be a failure.

EXAMPLE: How many new brand ambassadors from the target millennial demographic did your company’s last full-page, full-color ad in Fill In The Blank Glossy Wine Publication get you?

Too far? Ok, my apologies. Snarkiness aside, clinging to the safety of what has worked in the past is exactly what will torpedo efforts now and in the future. By no means am I encouraging companies big or small to do away with what has gained them their current following. There is value to that approach, but only to one’s current customer base. In other words, to maintenance – not to growth. This is why I’m not suggesting  companies completely amputate this approach.

I do, however, highly recommend that if any company wants a NEW consumer group, that you create a NEW marketing plan for them – separate from your existing plan. This means a new attitude and image for this group. Put in the effort to find the aligned interests of the demographic and of your brand and work from there. If you personally don’t know what I’m talking about, find someone that does. This kind of work won’t be easy at first, but it WILL be worth it.

You’ll know it’s working when it’s no longer difficult to sell your alcoholic beverage to a twenty five year-old college graduate.

Small Indulgences in Hard Times: How the R-Word Can Work for Wine

Back in August I was invited to a press tasting here in Los Angeles. Normally, this would not be something to write home about – or in this case, the entire world – but this particular event fascinated me.  It was not at a trendy restaurant during the off-hours of a weekday, it was not during cocktail-hour at one of the dozens of ultra-luxury hotels in the city, and it wasn’t a dreadful luncheon.

Setting for the Press Tasting

Ruffino Wines was holding their press tasting at Voda Spa in West Hollywood – complete with manicures and massages. Upon first glance of the invite, I marveled at the balls-out audacity of securing RSVPs by offering free spa services and thus guaranteeing a completely captive audience of press. And all of this with no obvious connection to wine – especially Chianti.

Upon further inspection of the materials, however, I was absolutely taken.  They had found a simple and luxurious way to work WITH the recession in order to market their wines.

HOW IT WORKED

In 2008, the New York Times ran two stories on The Lipstick Index – a term coined by Leonard Lauder of Estée Lauder that described his experience of selling more lipstick in times of economic hardship. The theory behind this term is based on the idea that when times are tough and big luxuries – vacations, cars, even couture clothing – are no longer realistic expenses, people seek small indulgences, like nice lipstick, to see them through the times. Sound like a stretch? Check out the article for yourself.

The brains at NY-based Cornerstone PR, Ruffino’s public relation firm, read the article and decided that wine could be a similar small indulgence. Riffing off this idea, Ruffino soon had a press campaign called “The Chianti Index” and set up tastings at Spas that featured wines in the $8-$25 range, along with Chianti-colored manicures.

SO WHAT?

So many companies in the wine industry seem to be putting on a brave face and pretending (at least in public) that either there is no recession, or that it’s not affecting them.  In the meantime, behind closed doors these same companies are panicking about dropping prices, decreasing wine club membership, and the uncertainty of sales this holiday season.  For marketing wine, behaving as though nothing has changed DOES NOT WORK.

Marketing a product to the masses as “the ultimate in luxury” will not be effective when the masses are not comfortable spending money on true luxury items right now.  HOWEVER… Being able market that same product as a small indulgence – the flexibility of adapting to the mental state of the times, the idea of The Lipstick Index and Recessionistas – can mean the difference between a rise in sales, or a drop.

Imagine: Let’s say a particular winery has a $50 bottle of wine that is marketed as the absolute top-tier, ultimate in luxury, single vineyard, special lot, 18 months in new French Oak, yaddah-yaddah of it’s class. The current branding says “When you want the absolute best wine, this is the wine you get.”  Now let’s look at a consumer. Doesn’t matter if they are 45 and lost 40% of their kids’ college fund in the stock market, or if they are 25 and making $30k a year, we’re looking at the average consumer that is feeling the pressure to cut back. Think about your own spending. About the conversations you’ve had with friends.  The first cut-backs are on things we don’t need. The Ultimate in Luxuries. The nice-to-haves. The new german cars. The big vacations. The best new gadgets.

By continuing with the branding of “Ultimate in Luxury,” our example wine has placed itself squarely in the Should-Not-Buy category of products. The odds of our consumer purchasing this wine are pretty slim.

HOWEVER.  If that same $50 wine adjusts it’s brand message from “Best of the Best” to “Small Indulgence,” it’s chances increase dramatically. If the message says “This is how you can pamper yourself – no vacation needed,” then that wine no longer resides in the Should-Not-Buy zone for our consumer, but rather the We-Deserve-This zone. The Stay-cation zone. The I-Can-Share-This-With-Friends zone.

What wine needs to do is take a tip from the Lipstick Index. By sticking to traditional branding, companies are making it more difficult for consumers to qualify spending their money.  By adjusting their branding, companies are making it easier for consumers to make the decision to buy. I know it sounds simple. That’s because it is.

Don’t look at this as a magic bullet. Think of it as the bullet that wine companies can save by NOT shooting themselves in the foot.

Some Serious Advice: Carol Phillips Speaks Out About Millennial Marketing

A couple weeks ago, Pete Krainek of The CMO Club posed questions to Millennial Marketing guru Carol Phillips about how companies and CMOs can more effectively reach out to the Millennial consumer group through marketing.  On May 29th, Ms. Phillips posted the conversation on her fabulous blog, Millennial Marketing, and the results are short, sweet and worth their binary 1′s and 0′s in gold.

Below are some excerpts of the interview (many of these topics have been discussed recently here on The Millennier).  If reaching out to Millennials is something that you – or your company – is trying to do (and you’re reading this, so it IS), this is some important information that will be crucial in building your successful approach.

“Millennials are literally begging wine makers to market to them.”

- Carol Phillips

For the full posting of the interview, go here. (For those of you who have not taken a look at Ms. Phillips blog, I highly recommend. Like, HIGHLY.)

Carop Phillips & Emily Fleming

Photo: Carol Phillips and friend, Emily Fleming. Carol is President of research and consulting firm, Brand Amplitude, and teaches marketing at University of Notre Dame.

Carol Phillips answers  questions about marketing to Millennials.

More and more companies are looking to engage, market and sell more effectively to Millennials. What are the most important things CMO’s should consider as they develop their marketing plans?

The most important thing is to take time to truly understand their core values. It’s easy to get caught up in studying their buying behavior, media use and latest-must-have technology. But if you study their values, you will have a better idea of how to connect with them. Obama and Apple won their hearts because they ‘think’ like Milllennials.

In study after study — on beer, education, social media, philanthropy, workplace needs and news media — we find that understanding Millennial values helps shed light on behavior. Taking the time to really ‘get’ the way they think is well worth the effort and pays dividends in how you manage, communicate and ultimately market to them. Without those insights, the paradoxes can be baffling.

Who does a good job in engaging millennials and why?

Millennials love brands, but are cynical about marketing. They distrust commercial messages, so any effort must be authentic and come from a trusted source. The absolute best way to engage them is through each other. Our advice to clients is to engage them by giving them ‘social currency’, in the form of experiences and information, and then make it easy to share. Starbuck’s Red promotion at the holidays, Taco Bell’s long running late night promotion, and the Ford Fiesta car giveaway contest all have great Millennial appeal because they are about sharing. In the entertainment area, ABC Family did a great job of repositioning ‘family entertainment’ to be more Millennial-friendly.

What are some examples of approaches that didn’t work or miss the boat?

An iconic brand currently popular with Millennials, but is due for a makeover, is Corona. Millennials love sophisticated tastes in beer, wine and spirits, and they prefer imported beer. But their idea of relaxation is not going on vacation or sitting on a beach. Relaxation is something that needs to happen every day, like watching Family Guy, throwing a frisbee to a dog or making a great meal.

Beyond specific brands, there are whole categories that are missing the boat. Millennials are literally begging wine makers to market to them. Casual restaurants also are missing an opportunity to build community around their brands. Realtors, travel and financial services need to start clueing into their future target.

Any myths you think out there on Millennials that CMOs should not believe as fact?

Yes, there a lot of myths. Unfortunately some of them have a grain of truth to them so it can be hard to sort out what is real and what is not. The main caution is not to make the mistake of thinking Millennials are simply younger, more techo-savvy versions of Boomers and X’ers. If you have teenagers or young adult children, you know this is true. They simply ‘think different’. Their sheer numbers make it inevitable that they will shape us – marketers and managers – more than we will shape them.

What final words of advice do you have for CMOs looking to improve engagement and sales results with Millennials?

Listen to your own Millennials, at home and in the office. They will give you the best advice about how to reach others like them. We learn from our younger colleagues, our own kids and my students every day. There are also a lot of great blogs written about marketing by Millennials. Finally, its not a challenge to talk to them online – they love to talk and they literally ‘live’ online.

AMEN CP!